Monday, December 10, 2007

Farewell the Union Jack

Another shoe dropped in Iraq.

On an unannounced visit to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and to see the 5,000 British troops located at the Basra airport, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that security in Basra province would become the responsibility of the Iraqi security apparatus within the next two weeks. By the end of 2007, the UK’s contingent will have contracted from 46,000 during the March 2003 invasion to 2,500 – and these in turn will be out by June 2008.

This is but one more indication that the Bush administration is encountering increasing resistance from “allies” for sustaining the occupation. In fact, the evidence is mounting that the U.S. president and the Iraq prime minster have agreed to request that the UN Security Council renew the Chapter VII mandate authorizing the continued presence of the occupying forces for a “final” 12 months. Moreover, during this next year, the U.S. and Iraqi administrations are to wok out the details specifying the “status” of the U.S. military forces expected to be retained in Iraq until at least 2010.

The Government Accountability Agency noted in May 2007 (GAO-07-627T) that only 25 of the original 48 countries—of which 38 contributed 24,000 troops for the invasion force – were still contributing troops to the “coalition of the willing.”But the number had fallen to 12,600.

Those numbers, both the number of countries contributing forces and the number of troops, will fall in 2008. The Australians and the Poles, with new governments, have already declared they will be out by the end of 2008.

And in case the question comes up, the U.S. is picking up the cost of troop deployments to Iraq by some of the “willing” coalition countries still in Iraq.


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